Kevin and Jared offering this Christmas classic as we celebrate Advent.
Jennifer and Owen Chikonoyora and beloved and faithful members of St. Luke’s whose daughter, Erin, along with other vulnerable Albertans, needs our prayers and actions to help ensure continued quality care and nurturing home. Below is Erin’s story, after reading it I encourage you to consider writing to Honourable Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services, asking her to maintain RSS/FSCD/GSS, homes and respite care for some of the most vulnerable and medically fragile children and adults in the province, as Direct Operations of the Government to ensure the best options for the care and safety of our loved ones.
Erin is our oldest child, and has a sister and brother. She was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia after a very premature birth. She is now 44 years old and has been a member of the Residential Support Services (RSS) family since 1984. Erin is a much-loved member of our own family, too – she is a daughter, step-daughter, sister, stepsister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend to many, and a community member.
A child with severe disabilities brings complicated feelings of loss and longing, as well as overwhelming love. As a parent you become part of a small community with other parents in similar situations. It was not an easy decision for us as parents to place our child in a residential home – especially a child who is totally dependent, non-verbal and in a wheelchair. How could she tell us that she was well-cared for and felt safe? That led to a lot of anxiety on our part. We lived in rural Alberta– all the services Erin needed, including appropriate schooling, were only available in Edmonton, and for a few years Erin travelled to Edmonton for school and appointments – a three hour round trip, which was not appropriate for her physically and emotionally.
Erin is still fully dependent for all her care needs. She is a very determined young lady – right from her birth she has been a fighter! From her fight to stay alive as a very premature baby, to trying to hold her head up, to being able to bring her hands together to try and hold a toy, , to learning to eat and drink without choking (mostly), to picking up a cup or a spoon, to learning to use an electric wheelchair (a major triumph that surprised even the Glenrose staff), to using some ways to communicate to make her needs or emotions known, and many more examples, Erin has always amazed us with trying over and over to master what would seem to be small things to most people. She has guts! She loves us and our family loves her. We are determined to fight for her and protect her in the home environment she knows and loves.
Erin’s home has been Glenwood for 35 years and her friends/roommates, staff and her family are her world. I can tell you that the quality of care Erin has received over the years through RSS has been consistently exceptional. When we visit her we know there will be a peaceful and purposeful atmosphere in the home. The clients are well cared for, engaged in activities that interest them and help them develop; there is nutritious food, and the home is clean and well maintained. Erin has a detailed Care Plan and an Individual Service Plan (ISP) that sets goals on an annual basis for all dimensions of Erin’s life. One important goal is Inclusion. This means a full life lived in the community. Erin attended the On-Campus program at the University of Alberta, and now volunteers in the community through Alumni Support. She volunteers at Summer Festivals, attends events, concerts and shopping trips with a leisure companion she pays for. Inclusion does not mean programs run by private service providers.
The main reason for Erin’s happiness is consistency of care, provided by committed and caring staff (many of whom I have known for years), the established routines, the government standards of care and accountability, staff training in care and safety protocols, wrap-around services and the excellent leadership by supervisors and central office management. I would argue that this is the RSS advantage that has kept our loved ones safe, well and progressing.
So I would congratulate the GOA on a model program that has evolved based on research to a community focus, and has always received great assessments and awards. The staff is well chosen, well trained on an ongoing basis and there is little staff turnover. That is the GOA advantage – fair funding, excellent standards of care, implemented by committed and caring staff. The Government should be proud of their successes!
So my question is WHY? Why would the GOA want to dismantle and/or transfer small but successful programs that look after the needs of some of the most vulnerable residents of our province? How would this be better for our loved ones?
The letter parents/guardians received out of the blue on June 10, from a Director of Disability Services gave no reasons for the potential change and no opportunities for consultation with parents/ guardians who are the voices of our children. We will be “kept informed…” The letter arrived during the COVID pandemic, with other priorities on our minds and social distancing in place, and the time pressure of a 90-day consultation with AUPE.
RSS community homes are our children’s homes – they have no other home – and they have developed meaningful bonds with other residents and staff. There IS a family atmosphere. Any change in service provision will have an impact on our loved ones. Will they stay in the same home? How will standards of care and funding levels, under a contracted service provider, affect their daily living? What will happen to the staff they are familiar with? (I just want to speak on behalf of the wonderful staff that could lose their GOA positons – they do not deserve this, especially after the care they have provided during COVID). There will be confusion and disruptions for the residents, which can have a tremendous impact on their well-being– is this necessary?
This is not the first time that the government has attempted to divest itself of direct responsibility for residential services. A similar situation happened in the mid-1980s, with RDH, as it was called then. As parents/guardians we banded together in a common cause- to stop privatization, because it would not improve the lives of our children. Our active and enthusiastic group of parents persuaded the government through letters and a meeting with then Minister of Social Services, Neil Webber, not to move forward with their plans, and RSS continued to be run directly by the government. By listening to those most closely involved the government made a wise decision. It gave us faith in politics. We hope this will be repeated this time.
The letter sent on June 10 states that “Supporting Albertans with disabilities is our priority…” To paraphrase Gandhi, “The true measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members…” Can we as Albertans not afford to look after our most vulnerable through continuing RSS as a GOA program? Is that how we want our society to be judged? The programs (the 10%) directly operated by the provincial government have been supported by every government since Premier Lougheed. Does this government, under Premier Kenney, want to be known as the government who dismantled the long-standing and successful RSS?
We are not in favour of privatization because we feel that the current level of care will not continue, or be guaranteed by the provincial government, if RSS is not a direct part of the GOA.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing Erin’s story and your family’s struggle. For more information please read this background document Jennifer has prepared.
Add your voice to Jennifer’s and all the friends and family speaking up for the voiceless by writing to Honourable Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services, (email@example.com) asking her to maintain RSS/FSCD/GSS, homes and respite care for some of the most vulnerable and medically fragile children and adults in the province, as Direct Operations of the Government to ensure the best options for the care and safety of our loved ones.
St. Luke’s was scheduled to host an ecumenical Taizé prayer service in May though obviously the global pandemic has changed the plan a bit.
Here you will find a video of the musicians sharing their music and prayer. We hope it is useful for your own prayer and meditation.
You can learn more about Taizé at https://www.taize.fr/ and join the brother’s in their prayer practice on facebook
The Taizé Prayer in Edmonton and area Facebook can also be found on facebook https://www.facebook.com/edmontontaizeprayer/
Christ is Risen!! Alleluia!!
You can find here videos of Children’s talks about Easter.
This Maundy Thursday is like none other that we have observed. Rather than gathering to pray and reflect together in the church, remembering Jesus last supper with his disciples, we will be in our homes, with family or alone, recalling the night when Jesus gathered in an upper room with his friends.
You may download here some simple prayers to accompany your meal on Thursday that you may know Jesus in the breaking of bread together, through the scriptures and in your prayers. I have included a simple bannock recipe as well to share as part of your meal (it will pair well with your favourite wine or juice). I encourage you to wash the hands or feet of one another in your house, remembering Jesus call to loving service of one another. If you are alone, as you wash your hands remember those who are with you in spirit and praying for you and know also that we wash our hands so much in the midst of this pandemic, not in fear, but in love and care for those most vulnerable to the spread of the virus.
It is a holy night, when we join with Jesus in his prayers in the garden, awaiting the sorrow of his betrayal and death and trusting in the will and work of God. You may want to read in prayer Matthew 26-27
For the children of our community, this video expresses well the journey of holy week so far.
It is finishedJohn 19:30
Here is a brief video of Rev. Nick talking a bit about this scripture. Please zoom in for discussion about this scripture together Wednesday evening at 7pm.
We will continue to gather by zoom to read pray and study together in the coming weeks. Use this poll to help decide what we’ll study next.
I ThirstJohn 19:29
Rev. Joyce has offered this reflection on the 5th word. I hope you can join us Wednesday April 1st at 7pm by zoom meeting to discuss this scripture. https://us04web.zoom.us/j/665617995
Crucifixion was one of the most painful forms of capital punishment.Thomas Davis, a medical doctor, has studied what effect crucifixion has on the body. Here is what he says:”As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralysed, and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs, and the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen…Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then, another agony begins. A deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluid has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. (“The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View” Arizona Medicine, Vol. 22, March 1965, 183-187)
It is easy to see then why Jesus was thirsty. Psalm 22 seems to be a full description of the Crucifixion even though crucifixion had not yet been invented. Vs. 15 says “My strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” John mentions that someone tried to help Jesus by lifting a sponge filled with wine vinegar to his lips on a branch hyssop. Beside the act of kindness we are reminded that the Lamb of God is being sacrificed in the same manner as the Passover Lamb. The blood that was painted on the lintel and door frame of Hebrew homes so that the Angel of Death would pass by their homes was done using a branch of hyssop. (Exodus 12) So Jesus becomes the final Passover Lamb as he passes over from Death to Life and accomplishes our Salvation.
The question that becomes important for me is “Do I thirst for Christ and give my life fully for his use and glory?” Perhaps as we contemplate the pain he experienced for our sins we can make a new and deeper commitment to our Lord and Saviour.
My prayers and blessings to you all
Rev. Joyce Mellor
Next Week the scripture is
It is finished.John 19:30
Yesterday I gave blood (which I haven’t done in years) as a very tangible and safe way for me to help during this pandemic.
I was happy to meet 3 first time donors who all said they were there as a way to get out of the house and do some good while staying committed to helping flatten the curve and care for the vulnerable through “social distancing”.
I highly recommend giving blood as a social good and social outing while social distancing. It saves lives, it is needed now as much as ever and it will feel good to have a cookie and a chat.
If you’re interested you can make an appointment here.
An especially poignant act of service and sacrifice during Lent.